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Bellini: I Puritani

3.9 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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(Dec 18, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Live from The Metropolitan Opera, international sensation Anna Netrebko sings Elvira Walton (and her famous mad scene) in I Puritani, a spectacular production revived especially for Ms. Netrebko. The stellar cast includes tenor Eric Cutler as Arturo, Franco Vassallo as Riccardo, and John Relyea as Giorgio. The Music Director of the Houston Grand Opera, Patrick Summers, conducts the magnificent Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Included is a bonus DVD containing revealing conversations between Anna Netrebko and Renée Fleming, as well as the late Beverly Sills. The stunning performance on this DVD has been adored by millions of people already through its live transmission in high-definition to movie theatres in the US, Canada and Europe, and broadcasted live on Metropolitan Opera Radio and on Sirius Satellite radio channel 85.


It's hard to imagine a video opera collection without this superbly sung MET production of Bellini's I Puritani. Not that it's perfect by any means, but its excellences--most especially Anna Netrebko's electrifying singing and acting of Elvira--banish carping about other aspects of this memorable night at the opera. Netrebko is fragile from the start, her facial expressions and hand movements immediately conveying the girl's vulnerability. She has a mad scene in each act; the first when she realizes her fiancé has disappeared with another woman, the third, in the final act, a brief relapse when her returned fiancé is taken by the army to be executed. But it's in the second act that the real fireworks occur, with a Mad Scene that rivals Donizetti's Lucia for bel canto primacy. Here, Elvira is first heard off-stage, after the chorus has informed us that she's deranged. She enters wearing her wedding gown and begins Qui la voce in a voice as frail as her psyche. Netrebko is gripping here, wandering up and down the central staircase, a lost, pathetic creature. Later in the scene she delivers a spectacular display of theatrics as well as fearless vocalism by singing a florid coloratura passage while lying on her back, her head dangling into the orchestra pit.

Tenor Eric Cutler is her fiancé, Arturo, who helps the Stuart Queen escape from the Puritan stronghold, not a wise move in Cromwell's England, not to mention unhinging Elvira. Bellini gives Arturo one of the most cruelly taxing entrance arias in opera, A te o cara, which Cutler delivers with aplomb. His singing throughout is ardent, well-tinted, and easeful. As Elvira's uncle, bass John Relyea is in excellent voice, his big Act III aria especially well done. Franco Vassallo, as Riccardo, Arturo's rival, is more generic, his baritone lacking the color and shading to bring the character to life. Conductor Patrick Summers leads singers and the superb MET Orchestra in an idiomatic performance, allowing the long lines of Bellinian melody to ripen and expand while also generating excitement in the more dramatic scenes.

Visually Sandro Sequi's 30-year-old production with sets by Ming Cho Lee, is showing its age, but the lighting and video direction (by Gary Halvorson) manage to make it look better than it did in the house. Sharon Thomas' stage direction is largely limited to the stand-and-sing variety, the chorus composed into static formations that make for pretty still photos but lack life. Much of the acting is rudimentary, with the singers looking either bored or stiff or engaged in stock generic emoting. Only Netrebko surpasses this with acting that's on par with her singing--consumed by the character, intense and knowing in her subtle movements and reactions, conspiring with Bellini to make this a must-have. --Dan Davis

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Anna Netrebko, Eric Cutler, Franco Vassallo, John Relyea, Patrick Summers
  • Format: Classical, NTSC, Color
  • Language: Italian (DTS 5.1), Italian (PCM Stereo), English (DTS 5.1), English (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: German, English, Italian, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: Italian
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
  • DVD Release Date: December 18, 2007
  • Run Time: 149 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000Y9M09G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,472 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Bellini: I Puritani" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Several reviewers have criticized Anna Netrebko because her coloratura skills do not match those of Maria Callas. Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, or Edita Gruberova. On that point, I have to agree. Although Netrebko does an exemplary job of sustaining long notes at the end of phrases (a Bellini specialty), she doesn't display the trills and ornamentation skills of a true coloratura soprano. If the ability to sing coloratura is of primary importance to you, then this production will be a disappointment. However, I am willing to rely on "I Puritani" CD's to hear Elvira in her full coloratura glory because Netrebko brings so many other fine qualities to the role. Those qualities include: a full-bodied dark and dusky voice that, at the same time, is gentle and supple; superior acting ability; a charismatic stage presence. These combine to make for a performance that is both dazzling and haunting. Sadly for the other players, the stage often feels empty when she's not on it.

The male performers don't fare as well, but I think it's partly that Netrebko's stage presence is so strong that The Met needed to dig deep and find three males who could keep pace with her. Unfortunately, none of the three do. As Riccardo, Franco Vassallo has a strong baritone voice, but he doesn't convincingly express the pain of a rejected suitor. Eric Cutler fares better on the acting side as Elvira's true love, but he struggles with the high tessitura of the tenor role. (Nevertheless, he and Netrebko have good stage chemistry even though her voice dominates the duets.) As Uncle Giorgio, John Relyea's bass is too gravely for Bellini's melodic score.

The orchestra, conducted by Patrick Summers, does a superior job bringing out the melodic beauty of Bellini's score.
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I read with surprise the rave reviews of this performance. While it has to be agreed that many aspects of Netrebko are wonderfully suited to this role, there are also critical shortcomings which are probably not obvious to audiences who are not well acquainted with the demands of Bel Canto. First on her plus points - she definitely looked the part, which is not often so, and while many viewers don't mind whether the singer looked the part, many also do, and this will keep these people happy. She has a lovely voice and a good acting ability - which certainly brings the role to life - again something not to be taken for granted. Thirdly she has star appeal, which will bring greater audiences to this sadly and unfairly neglected masterpiece by Bellini (even if its not Norma or La Sonnambula, it certainly deserves a revival).

However, viewers must also be aware that Bel Canto also requires the singer to have a good coloratura ability. This is unfortunately sorely missed here in Ms Netrebko's performance. Indeed audiences who are well acquainted with this work will have picked the glossing over of running notes and other obvious faults Ms Netrebko should have overcomed.

Perhaps it is wise of her to have appeared in a video recording rather than an audio one, where these faults would have been accentuated in the absence of her glamorous personality and great thespian skills. For it would have brought up very unfavorable comparisons with those who have managed the coloratura successfully - the legends of the past like Callas, Sutherland, Sills or even Freni, just to name a few.

Nonetheless, in times like ours, a greatly welcomed release.
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This performance which I saw in HD broadcast, is superb in all respects. Puritani, though quite beautiful, is quite a static opera. Musically, what creates momentum is the profligacy and haunting quality of its melodic content, and the underlying rhythmic diversity present throughout the work. Thus much depends on the conductor. He has to let the melodies soar but keep taut control of the rhythms, flexibility without slackness. How Bellini came to use so much polonaise in dealing with Scottish Puritans is a puzzlement, but it works very well. Mr. Summers, whom I had never heard of before, is very good and he succeeds admirably in not letting matters wilt while never rushing anything. Besides its admirable set pieces, Puritani is full of little musical moments, almost throwaway beautiful two- or three-bar melodic phrases that make one comprehend the great respect with which Bellini was regarded by both Chopin and Wagner. A conductor cannot underline all of these, otherwise the performance becomes one of fits and starts, but they need to be noticed, with subtlety. Mr. Summers understands this very well and executes accordingly. It is ironic how much this opera, considered pre-eminently a singers' work, depends, to be truly effective, on the person silently wielding the baton.

Of course, there is the very dramatic "mad" scene Bellini provided for Elvira, pretty much out of nowhere, but even that is anchored by one of the most beautiful melodies ever written. Anna Netrebko is marvelous throughout, and excels in Qui La Voce and its aftermath. It's quite a haunting, dramatic performance that will long be remembered. You will gasp. The rest of the cast performs admirably, Mr. Cutler providing solid technique, poise and feeling in one of the highest tessitura tenor roles around.

The production is handsome and simple. The direction is smart, and in the case of Netrebko, brilliant. This is a DVD I will get and I'm sure I'll return to several times.
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